Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Journey With Matthew - Day 3

Read Matthew 3:1-17

The three photos above were taken by me in the Judean wilderness four years ago when I traveled to the Holy Land. In fact, this blog grew directly out of that trip, which was initially a way for me to share my photos and reflections. Today's reading takes me back to that place. 

I don't know where it came from, but I grew up thinking that "the wilderness" or desert (the terms are used synonymously in the Bible) was a lifeless place devoid of beauty. Two experiences changed that perception, which had perhaps not even been conscious. First, I read a book entitled The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Beldan Lane. Lane writes: "There is an unaccountable solace that fierce landscapes offer to the soul. They heal, as well as mirror, the brokenness we find within." And the second was that trip to the Holy Land, which gave me, literally, eyes for seeing. 

So there are a lot of directions one might go with today's reading from the third chapter of Matthew. One might focus on John the Baptist, or on Jesus, or on that "brood of vipers" - or on the voice from heaven, or on the meaning of Holy Baptism. If you are using the resource from the 50 Day Bible Challenge, you might find Bishop Daniel's comments helpful. 

But for me, on this day, it is that one word "wilderness" that captivates my imagination and draws me in. It is this notion that place matters for soul-work. It is that there are signs of life even in the desert, and the light of the stars in the desert is beautiful, and the desert does sometimes bloom. For all these reasons, the wilderness (literally and metaphorically) is a place where we encounter the living God, and are ministered to by angels. 

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